Rains spur Matabeleland farmers

Rains spur Matabeleland farmers
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Matabeleland farmers have resorted to planting beans to escape hunger in the wake of the EL Nino induced drought.

FARMERS in drought-stricken Matabeleland South province have refused to give up on the 2015/2016 cropping season and are taking advantage of the little rains received last month to replant their fields.
Zimbabwe, just like other southern African countries, has been hit hard by the El Nino weather phenomenon that has resulted in heat waves and erratic rainfall, which have triggered widespread crop failure.
Weather experts and agronomists intimate that the scale of the current drought is similar to the one the country experienced during the 1991/92 summer season, when there was a major drought in the country.
Government, which has mobilised US$200 million for the importation of grain, has already started importing some maize from neighbouring Zambia.
Farmers who spoke to the Financial Gazette this week said it was not yet time to throw in the towel, vowing to use every raindrop to plant something into the ground.
“We cannot sit back and relax whenever we receive rains, even if they are erratic,” said the Zimbabwe Farmers Union Matabeleland South provincial chairman, Douglas Sibanda.
He said since the province received some rains on January 15, farmers have returned to the fields to replant, and what they had replanted had already germinated.
“I am busy in the field right now as we speak, but the challenge that we are facing is that of seed. It’s in short supply here in Gwanda,” he said.
“I think the agro-dealers had returned maize seed to their suppliers when the dry spells continued. We are however, also planting beans especially the short season varieties,” he added.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union past president, Donald Khumalo, said despite the rains being erratic, he would not advise farmers to stop planting.
“We say it is always best to be optimistic and always try your luck and put something into the soil because if you don’t and when rains continue to come you will regret at the end of the day,” said Khumalo, urging farmers to go for short season crop varieties.
“What is called for now is just faith and nothing else,” added Khumalo.
Matabeleland South provincial agronomist, Innocent Nyathi, said while they were already doing crop assessments, they were still encouraging farmers to take advantage of the rains to replant their crops.
“We are definitely encouraging them to replant and practice conservation farming,” said Nyathi, adding that with climate change now a reality, it would be difficult to predict if rains would continue or not.
He, however, said the early planted small grains like millet in the province were promising and by next week it would be clearer how much the province is most likely to harvest.
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